William F. Styler pleaded guilty Friday in Pitkin County District Court to the murder of Aspen native Nancy Pfister and received a 20-year prison sentence through a plea agreement with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Styler, 66, a former Denver anesthesiologist, admitted to authorities June 12 that he acted alone in the murder, District Attorney Sherry Caloia said. He used a hammer to strike Pfister’s head while she was sleeping on the night of Feb. 24, Assistant District Attorney Scott Turner said in court.
Pfister’s relatives asked Chief District Judge James Boyd to impose the maximum sentence of 32 years for the second-degree murder/heat-of-passion charge to which Styler pleaded guilty. But Boyd went along with prosecutors’ recommendation of 20 years in a Department of Corrections prison with medical facilities. Styler has attended every court hearing since his March 3 arrest in a wheelchair for an unspecified health condition.
First-degree murder charges against his wife, Nancy Styler, 62, and former Aspen bank teller Katherine Carpenter, 56, have been dismissed. Nancy Styler was arrested on the same day as her husband, while Carpenter was arrested March 14.
The Stylers had rented Pfister’s home while she was out of the country on vacation for a few months. Carpenter was said to be a longtime friend and personal assistant who collected rent money from tenants. All three suspects had been held in custody in separate jails, without bond, since their arrests. Nancy Styler was freed Tuesday while Carpenter was released Friday following a brief court appearance.
Defense attorneys for the Stylers and Carpenter told reporters outside the courthouse that the evidence in the case was solely circumstantial and characterized the prosecutors’ cases against Nancy Styler and Katherine Carpenter as extremely weak. Caloia said the evidence against William Styler was strong.
“We do believe that this is a good and just resolution to these cases and hope that Nancy Pfister’s family can find peace in knowing what happened, knowing that Nancy Pfister’s killer is in prison, and avoiding potentially years of litigation for which the result is always uncertain,” a statement from Caloia’s office read.
Due to William Styler’s age and medical condition, “we believe this will be a life sentence for him,” the statement adds.
Caloia also addressed the dropping of charges against Nancy Styler and Katherine Carpenter in her statement. Nancy Styler’s charges were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought back into play. However, Katherine Carpenter’s charges were dismissed without prejudice. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said an investigation into Carpenter’s possible role in the homicide remains open indefinitely.
After a trip to Australia, Pfister returned in late February to her West Buttermilk Road mountainside home the Stylers had rented. Authorities found her body — wrapped in sheets, according to Caloia — in a closet at the house on Feb. 26. She was 57 at the time of her death.